electricity in sphere

A grammar point: when passive verbs make sense

This time we are looking at some common errors in writing which have come across my desk more than once.

Basically these particular issues all happen for two reasons. First, people are taught to use active verbs in order to make their writing seem more dynamic, engaging and modern. Second, in an effort to seem objective, in academic writing people are still taught sometimes not to use “I” or “we”. That is fine so long as the verbs actually make sense. However, writers are giving life to inanimate concepts, which seems rather odd. You might find the examples below more convenient to read if your first language is not English:

How can a task expect anything?

Example: This assessment task expects students to critically analyse case studies.

Alternative 1: In this assessment task, students are expected to critically analyse case studies.

Alternative 2. For this assessment task, we expect students to critically analyse case studies.

How can a process consider anything?

Example: Thus, the management process of the sustainability paradox has to consider coordination at different levels and stages, as well as various types of paradoxes.

Alternative 1: Thus, for the management process of the sustainability paradox, coordination at different levels and stages, as well as various types of paradoxes have to be considered.

Alternative 2: Thus, to manage the sustainability paradox, we need to consider coordination at different levels and stages, as well as various types of paradoxes.

How can the literature investigate anything?

Example: The prior sustainability literature investigates the tensions among sustainability goals, the management strategies that organizations use to respond to the tensions, and resulting outcomes.

Alternative 1: The prior sustainability literature comprises investigations of tensions among sustainability goals, the management strategies that organizations use to respond to these tensions, and resulting outcomes.

Alternative 2: The prior sustainability literature consists of investigations of tensions among sustainability goals, the management strategies that organizations use to respond to these tensions, and resulting outcomes.

You are the researcher. The thesis is what you wrote.

Example: This thesis examines the medium-term effects of this drug at 50 mg daily.

Alternative 1: This thesis presents an examination of the medium-term effects of this drug at 50 mg daily.

Alternative 2: In this thesis, we examine of the medium-term effects of this drug at 50 mg daily.

Some people prefer to refer to themselves as “the researcher” instead of “we”.

Example: This thesis examines the medium-term and short-term effects of life transitions on various aspects of householder expenditure patterns.

Alternative: In this thesis, the researcher examines the medium-term and short-term effects of life transitions on various aspects of householder expenditure patterns.

Similarly, a chapter is what you wrote.

Others prefer to refer to themselves as “I”.

Example: This chapter briefly explains how I address the research questions.

Alternative 1: In this chapter, a brief explanation is given on how I address the research questions.

Alternative 2: In this chapter, I give a brief explanation on how I address the research questions.

Alternative 3: In this chapter, we briefly explain how the research questions are addressed.

Example: Chapter 2 reviews the relevant literature.

Alternative 1: Chapter 2 consists of a review of the relevant literature.

Alternative 2: In Chapter 2, a review of the relevant literature is provided.

Example: Chapter 3 explains the data and methods used to test the hypotheses.

Alternative 1: Chapter 3 offers an explanation of the data and methods used to test the hypotheses.

Alternative 2: In Chapter 3, an explanation is given of the data and methods used to test the hypotheses.

Is this one correct?

Example: Chapter 6 ends with the limitations of this study and several suggestions for future research.

YES. A chapter can do some actions, e.g. it begins, follows, or ends.

So now you know how to fix the next example.

Example: This section first discusses the importance of studying healthy food consumption habits and then provides related existing literature on the effect of income and lifestyle on healthy food consumption.

Alternative: This section begins with a discussion on the importance of studying healthy food consumption, followed by an outline of related existing literature on the effect of income and lifestyle on healthy food consumption.

Your study or your research is what you wrote.

Example: This study expects a negative effect on convenience food intake after marriage. 

Alternative 1: In this study, a negative effect was expected on convenience food intake after marriage.

Alternative 2: In this study, we expected a negative effect on convenience food intake after marriage.

Example: This study does not intend to consider the period of recession.

Alternative 1: It is not intended in this study to consider the period of recession.

Alternative 2: The period of recession is not considered in this study.

Alternative 3: We do not consider the period of recession in this study.

We will probably still continue to see research in which the authors are so modest that they state their study finds information. Realistically though, we should take ownership of our efforts.

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